Weed Control without Chemicals
This article introduces a creative approach to weeds as one of the 100 innovations that shape "The Blue Economy". This article is part of a broad effort to stimulate entrepreneurship, competitiveness and employment.
The world market for pesticides, fungicides and herbicides has been hovering around $40 billion for the past decade. Whereas the growth in herbicides increased +10 percent per year, the sales of pesticides dropped by 15 percent.
The market in the Northern Hemisphere (USA, Europe, and Japan) concentrates approximately 80 percent in herbicides, while in the developing world with a more tropical environment, sales are distributed equally between pesticides and herbicides. With 31.7 percent, the European market is the largest in the world, good for 12.8 billion dollars in sales, followed by Asia that outpaces North America. Herbicides represent the largest category with nearly 19 billion dollars in sales. Contrary to common belief, the US is a relatively small consumer. However this may be the result of a vast penetration of GMO crops.
There are an estimated 500 different active chemical substances that have been reformulated in approximately 2,700 specialty products. France is the largest consumer of phyto-sanitary products in Europe and only ranks third in the world after the US and Japan. Roundup as an individual brand, produced by Monsanto stands out in sales worldwide. Most GMO's are designed to work with a specific herbicide. Ever since GMO soy has been introduced in the US, the sales of Roundup has increased with 72 percent to reach nearly three billion dollars in 2010, providing approximately 300 million dollars to profit.
R&D costs have risen and are expected to rise as regulatory requirements for safer agro- chemicals increase. Biotechnology is also encroaching on the chemical solutions that have dominated since the early 1950s. Genetic engineering involves amongst others the making of plants resistant to herbicides. This strategy allows companies to control the market for specific crops, such as Monsanto's pairing of Roundup as a herbicide, and Roundup-tolerant soybeans, making money on selling the chemical controls and the seeds. American Cyanamid pursued the same strategy developing herbicide-tolerant varieties of wheat, the largest agricultural crop in the world. There are only a few researchers who opt for innovations based on allelopathy, the study of natural herbicides such as those produced by walnut trees.
Jonas Carlsson, the managing director of JCS Europe AB, a Swedish company dedicated to innovations in agricultural machinery, has been focusing on organic farming for over a decade. As an organic farmer he resisted the application of herbicides while struggling to control thistles which mount each spring a long and arduous battle. Jonas studied the physical differences between his crops and the weed, searching for a solution independent of chemicals, and free of genetic controls. He imagined sensing blades to control weeds in various crops. Unlike a mowing machine, which would eliminate all vegetation, he designed fixed blades that comb for weeds based on the physiological difference of unwanted plants and the growing young crops.
Jonas found it strange that no one stumbled upon the idea to exploit the form, shape and texture of weeds. Jonas imagined a cutting system that removes the thistle after its leaves covered the soil. For three years, he tested and tried his ideas in cooperation with JTI (The Swedish Institute for Agricultural and Environmental Engineering), built a prototype and obtained a patent for 32 countries. SLU (The Swedish Agricultural University) located in Uppsala, tested the machinery pulled by tractor with remarkable success. One of the core principles of The Blue Economy is to apply innovations that first and foremost rely on physics. The traditional use of chemicals, and the biotechnology based genetic modifications, are outsmarted by the identification of the form and shape of weeds, permitting a very labor efficient control. This renders organic farming more productive.
The First Cash Flow
Jonas went on to test his Weedcutter for various applications. Of course, his first target was to win the fight against thistles. The machine is lowered down into the growing crop and searches for weeds. The driving speed reaches up to 10 km/hr and the working height can be adjusted to the surface. The blade is simple and has no moving parts. The only revolving component is a brush that prevents clogging. It is driven by a hydraulic motor. The technology is only mechanical, providing a high level of reliability. During Spring 2010, the first machines went on sale and whereas the clients were limited to Sweden, the increase in productivity was measured not only by the elimination of chemicals, it demonstrated that the use of the Weedcutter reduces the need for tilling, which consumes time and energy.
It is the first time that farmers are offered an alternative to chemical controls and genetic modifications. A combined sale of chemical and genetic controls is raising many doubts about the long term impact of these changes to the ecosystems. However, now that occupational exposure to herbicides (paraquat) increases the risk of Parkinson's disease, and that an additive to Roundup (adjuvants) kills cells in vitro, the regulatory authorities are much more reluctant to approve their use. The days that spray-on herbicides could be advertised for sale as safer than table salt and practically non-toxic to animals are definitely over. Both Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences have been forced to change their claims after tests have proven the opposite.
This creates a wide and new platform for the sale of farm equipment, as opposed to a struggling market for chemicals, with a broad reluctance from the public. There is one major advantage within the mechanical approach pioneered by Jonas Carlsson: Instead of having an aggressive product that serves all, it requires over time the development of a series of cutters that target specific weeds. Whereas the chemical and biotech solutions are driven by a few multinationals, this mechanical solution stimulates entrepreneurship.
This unveils a second successful strategy: adjust to the local market, and tailor the solutions to weeds that need to be removed. Since Jonas reduces costs, reduces the carbon footprint and increases labor productivity, we may wonder what the next job generation may be? It seems that this simple breakthrough will cause further job losses in the chemical industries, already struggling to adjust to the new market conditions with announced lay-offs. The locally adapted machines, that can be attached to any tractor, may well offer the new competitive edge to local entrepreneurs, generating few jobs but securing a healthier environment.
For more information please visit www.blueeconomy.de/
By Annie Leonard
When I turned on my computer today, I had seven emails from vendors announcing special low prices -- Black Friday deals -- available all week. The biggest discounts advertised were on electronics, which wasn't a surprise since November is considered "electronics-buying month" within the retail industry. I waded through the Black Friday junk mail, tapping away at my delete button, to find the one email I sought: the message from my neighbor with the menu, schedule and guest list for Thursday's Thanksgiving gathering.
Now, revisionist history aside, Thanksgiving is a great holiday. It is two full days during which most people in the U.S. are liberated from work and school. It comes at a time when the days are getting shorter, trees have lost their leaves, and we're pulling the sweaters out from the back of our overstuffed closets. It's the perfect time to cozy up and nest with friends and family. In the midst of our hectic year-end bustle, we get to spend two days pausing, recharging, looking into the faces of loved ones rather than into our computer screens. And, of course, remembering those who can't be with us.
There's one mother I especially think of on Black Friday: Marie Tellismond. Two years ago on Black Friday, Marie lost her 34-year-old son, Jdimytai Damour.
Jdimytai -- known as Jimmy to his friends -- had taken temporary job at a Walmart store in New York State, near his home. When the store opened at 5:00 in the morning, the crowds of shoppers -- many of whom had been waiting in the cold for hours to score good deals -- stormed the doors and trampled Jdimytai as he struggled to protect a pregnant woman from the stampede.
Jdimytai was a college student, and his mother said he hoped to be a teacher one day. He liked watching football and eating his mother's cooking. In an interview after the tragedy, she dabbed her eyes and said: "I don't have anybody else."
Now, I've never met Marie Tellismond, but as a fellow mother, I am pretty sure she would give anything to have a day with her son again. Losing, or even coming close to losing someone we love, makes us get our priorities straight really, really fast.
Most of us have a choice this Friday that Marie Tellismond no longer has. We have a choice to stay put with loved ones, to play board games and eat leftovers and maybe even watch a football game together. Or we can chose to leave the warmth of our beds before dawn, to sit in our cars in a parking lot at some mall and to spend the day searching for low prices on products which we don't really need and often don't even want, but getting them is all part of the Black Friday Frenzy.
Let's opt out of the frenzy this year.
Our out-of-control consumption has taken a toll on the planet, on our family budgets, and on workers from FoxConn in China to Walmart in New York. And it has taken a toll on the quality of our lives at home.
We have more and cooler stuff than our parents and grandparents could have ever imagined, but we pay dearly. We spend more time working and shopping than they did and we spend much less time in leisure, on vacation and with friends. What is the use of a brand new Pottery Barn table if we don't have a gang of friends and neighbors to gather around it?
If we're going to figure out how to build an economy and society that is healthy for people and the planet, this Friday is a good place to start.
Let's opt out of Black Friday. Choose family over frenzy.
To view the article on The Huffington Post visit http://www.huffingtonpost.com/annie-leonard/choose-family-over-frenzy_b_787597.html
For more information on Annie Leonard visit her website at The Story of Stuff
By Gunter Pauli
The world market for synthetic intense sweeteners reached $ 2.0 billion in 2010. Artificial sweeteners copy the taste of natural sugar without the calories. The market is set to grow at more than eight percent per year. The first synthetic sweetener was saccharin, discovered by accident over 140 years ago. It can be 500 times sweeter than sucrose. Aspartame - 200 times sweeter - was discovered in 1965 and later acquired by Monsanto, approved by the FDA in 1980 and achieved worldwide sales of over one billion dollar by the turn of the century. Consumers clearly prefer natural alternatives like stevia, agave, and sugar alcohols to the synthetic ones as their means to enjoy sweetness while avoiding an excessive amount of calories, and reducing the risk of tooth decay.
By 2015, natural sweeteners are expected to match or surpass global sales of synthetic intense sweeteners. The market for stevia-derived sweeteners manufactured by Cargill, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo represented in 2010 already 14 percent of the world market, up from just one percent in 2007. Ever since the Food and Drug Administration of the USA approved stevia, it has expanded from $21 million in 2008 to a sales volume expected to reach 2 billion in 2011. In a period of four years (2004-2008) some 2,000 new stevia-based products have been launched worldwide. The approval of stevia-based sweetening agents by the EU in April 2010 will lead to a continued double digit growth in sales from 2011 onwards.
The search for ever sweeter sweeteners is on. Sucralose, a sugar molecule modified by chlorine, produced by Tate & Lyle and marketed under the brand Splenda is 600 times sweeter than sugar. Alitame and neotame are respectively 2,000 and 8,000 sweeter than sucrose. Unfortunately, while the effects on taste and absorption into the body have been studied in great detail, the long term effects of these alternatives to sugar on the water surface tension of gastric acids in the stomach is little known and requires more investigation. A reduced tension of the stomach acids permits undigested food and bacteria to pass through the stomach wall into the blood circulating half-digested protein and acidophilic bacteria through the natural barriers. The search for natural alternatives continues including extract from the lua han guo fruit originated from Southern China, manufactured by Saraya Co. from Osaka, Japan. The main challenge for all types of alternatives to the traditional sugar from cane or beets remains cost and taste. Perhaps the biggest challenge is to identify multiple functions for sugars.
Kazuhiko Maruta, working for Hayashibara, a family-owned company in Japan, studied the resurrection fern (Pleopeltis polypodioides), a plant that got its name thanks to its ability to bounce back from the death. Under drought conditions, the plant shrivels to a brown bulk of biomass. He knew that this plants survives thanks to trehalose, a kind of sugar that secures its survival under stress conditions. This sugar is not about sweetness, rather it has the function to retain moisture and to protect protein from getting damaged. Trehalose displays an excellent market potential as a food additive beyond sweetness. It maintains freshness, stops discoloration, prevents moisture absorption and even maintains the shape and taste of frozen food. All this was well known to the scientists. The problem was cost.
However Kazuhiko discovered how to mass manufacture trehalose from starch, simply using enzymes from naturally occurring micro-organisms. The new process cut the cost of production by factor 100 and led to an exponential growth in sales reaching in 2010 approximately 30,000 tons, sold under the brand Treha©. This innovative sugar turned into a platform technology, with applications beyond the food industry. Besides its capacity to preserve food, its has the capacity to prevent dehydration, protecting skin and hair, a key success factor for the cosmetics industry. It even keeps organs fresh for transplantation, thus becoming a critical additive contributing to the success of the medical care. One day it could lead to the manufacture of vaccines without any need of refrigeration. This multi-functionality of trehalose makes it an ideal innovation, generating multiple cash flows going way beyond what we have associated with sugars for the past centuries.
The First Cash Flow
Since the industry was well aware about the potential, and Kazuhiko cracked the manufacturing challenge, the breakthrough in supply unleashed a strong demand. The innovative production method for trehalose was first discovered in 1994 and barely 15 years later it is already in 20,000 products made by 7,000 companies. Hayashibara, the family controlled company, specialized in starch derived products already pioneered low-calorie sugars (1968), and edible starch-based plastics (1973). Trehalose is catapulting the company to the forefront of biotechnology, demonstrating once more that innovations that penetrate multiple industries offer unique opportunities to set new standards. The fact that both the product and the process are inspired by a natural system, adds to the marvel of this design.
The life force of the fern is the basis for a whole portfolio of functional foods. Tests on mice suggest that one day people depending on a high fat diet drinking water containing 2.5 percent trehalose have better health indicators than those who drink any other sugar. Trehalose prevents fat cells from growing. More important, it regulates the body's production and potency of insulin. The combination of obesity, high blood pressure and insulin resistance increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. With an estimated 150 million people worldwide suffering from a combination of these 2 debilitating and fatal diseases, this sugar may offer a way to control this global health threat through the preparation of functional drinks and food.
And one day, it is hoped that the pioneering work of Kazuhiko could bring vaccines to the market without any need for refrigeration (See Case 17). That would be a tremendous contribution, not only to the health and human development agenda, in addition, it would reduce our excessive reliance on energy, especially fossil fuels for a wide range of applications starting with vaccines, but covering also the growing tendency of freezing food as a means of preservation. These multiple benefits make this an ideal innovation to achieve The Blue Economy.
For more information, please visit The Blue Economy.
Our economic alliance is increasingly gaining importance. Last week we were at the TBLI (Triple Bottom Line Investing) Conference in London to present NExT Social Stock Exchange and Blue Economy projects. Besides an exciting exchange with various players, several private and institutional investors have already contacted us voicing interest in Blue Economy innovations, who are now reviewing possible investments.
Again more power for members of the Blue Economy Alliance to implement concrete projects.
How could you keep food cool in remote areas of the Third World? Refrigerators keep food and medicine fresh for a much longer time than at ambient temperature, but they depend on a functioning grid connection. On the other hand, Photovoltaics is extremely expensive. This is why refrigerators in the Third World are still reserved to urban areas and more or less prosperous households.
Emily Cummins, a British Student, has built a refrigerator in a simple but ingenious way: It consists of two cylinders one inside the other, some filling material to fill the space between the inner and outer cylinder, and Water, not necessarily drinking water. If this devices is heated by the sun, then the water evaporates and cools down the inner cylinder, without any chemistry nor electricity. All building materials are available at any place of the world - a prime example for the principles of the Blue Economy.
A disadvantage of this refrigerator is that it only works with sufficient sunshine. This problem could be solved by integrating the light-based heaters developed at Las Gaviotas (see Case 15) into the construction. Visionaries ahead: Who will take the challenge?
Detailed information on the business model and its potential is available at www.community.blueeconomy.de , if you do not wish to register there. We wish you many inspirations and look forward to jointly changing the way we do business!
Gunter Pauli and the Team of The Blue Economy
They're people who make a special mark on the SouthCoast, some in their small towns, some on a larger stage.
And, once again, The Standard-Times/SouthCoastToday.com wants to recognize them for what they have accomplished.
As has become an annual tradition, The Standard-Times is seeking nominations for the 2010 SouthCoast Man of the Year and Woman of the Year. The 2009 recipients were Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who was honored posthumously, and Desa Van Laarhoven, executive director of the Marion Institute and a driving force behind the Bioneers by the Bay conference.
Along with choosing two who stand out across the region, the newspaper also will name a SouthCoast Youth of the Year — Hayley Morais of Freetown was honored in 2009 — and recognize people from each community it serves.
Please send nomination information — which cannot be returned — in writing by Nov. 30 in care of The Standard-Times, 25 Elm St., New Bedford, MA 02740; or fax to (508) 997-7491, Attention: Debra Ryan; or e-mail it to email@example.com
Excerpts from all entries will be published.
A Standard-Times newsroom committee will make the final selections.
The Standard-Times' choices will be published during the Christmas/New Year holidays; the exact dates will be announced.
For more info, visit the Standard Times Website
by Maura Schorr Beaufait
- Posted on November 1, 2010 at 6:09 pm
What happens when many passionate people care about an important issue? A movement is created, a movement strong enough to inspire others to make change. Bioneers By The Bay is a conference that feeds a movement and wants to connect people from America to unite and fight for a more eco-friendly world. The weekend from the 22nd to the 24th of October, New Bedford was visited by thousands of passionate folks who advocated about environmental justice and other global warming issues. I was lucky enough to attend the conference with my fellow co-workers from the Groundwork Somerville Green Team. With the staff of Groundwork Somerville, we departed for the conference on a cloudy Friday afternoon, all eager and nervous because we did not know what to expect. Granted, I did have an idea of the conference because I attended it last year and was part of the youth committee this year. In the committee I got the chance to meet other youth from Massachusetts, who just like me wanted to make their voice heard in the planning of the conference. I was really happy to know that I was going to Emcee the Open Mic show since I have always had a passion for public speaking.
When our group arrived at New Bedford, getting some sleep was not the only thing that was taking over our minds; we were curious of the conference and what new memories we would make. On Saturday morning, we got the opportunity to listen to some important and inspirational speakers. They all did an amazing job to prep for their presentation and make sure that the audience left changed and more informed. However, there was one speaker that stood out to our group the most; her name is Annie Leonard, author of “The Story of Stuff”. Ms. Leonard spoke a lot about how she came up with the idea of the book that was later made into a movie but most importantly she had the desire in her voice to convey her message to everyone in the room. Her speech highlighted how we should wonder where all the “stuff” that we have come from.
Later that day, other amazing things awaited for the Groundwork Somerville team. We were chosen to have our own workshop in the conference. We prepared for the workshop three weeks prior to October 22nd, and we called it “Piloting a Youth-Led Social Enterprise: Somerville SoilCycle”. The workshop took time to prepare, especially since there was fifteen of us presenting (each member had a speaking part). After choosing the main topics that we wanted to elaborate on and doing the proper research, an amazing powerpoint slide show was created. The presentation touched upon Groundwork Somerville’s composting project called SoilCycle and its road from an idea to reality. The workshop also gave an insight to its audience of tips and steps on how to start a community composting program or even in a smaller scale, composting at home. Our listeners were quite impressed with our work, or at least so we heard later on as some had mentioned us in their other workshops. We were quite pleased to know that those who attended our one and a half hour long presentation left the room learning new things about business and compost. The workshop was also very helpful to the presenters themselves. Considering that most of us were under the age of 18, for some it was their first public speaking event. It was nice to see them overcome their fears of speaking in front of others and their improvements from a rocky beginning to an excellent delivery when the day finally arrived.
On Sunday morning, we all woke up with mixed feelings; it was definitely nice to know that in a couple of hours we would be back home to our families and friends, but we also were sad that the conference was coming to an end. The keynote speakers that morning were nationally recognized folks who had a dream and vision and made it a success. Greg Mortenson, author of “Three Cups of Tea” had a very emotional and touching video and story about his personal stories in third world countries where children still have problems going to school and mines explode unexpected, and where a shocking high percentage of girls still are not educated. With an interesting and thought provoking quote, “Teach a boy and you teach an individual, Teach a girl and you teach a community” Mr. Mortenson ended his speech and for our group he also ended our time at the conference as we had to leave shortly after his presentation. However, we were all glad that we heard him last because the ride back home was quiet as we all pondered upon his words and images.
Thinking back to the conference, we are all very glad to have participated in such an important event. I like conferences like this, because they remind people that there are many in this movement and they remind us why climate work is so important. You know that an event is successful when it changes minds and inspires others to keep working hard or to start advocating, and Bioneers By The Bay definitely did this for us. As a youth planner, emcee, workshop presenter, keynote listener, that weekend was truly memorable and I am glad that I got to share it with my peers and co-workers and to know that this movement keeps getting stronger and stronger as we spread everything we learned from the conference to others.
- Enxhi Popa, 17 Somerville High School, Class of 2011
Visit Somerville Open Forum for more info.
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